Thanking Your Opponents
The 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony occurred last Friday. That’s a point to which I wouldn’t have paid much attention — if you ever saw me try to play basketball you’d understand why — except that this year Michael Jordan showed up to model how to play well, this time off the court.
Jordan used many of the playing well techniques of which I have written here throughout his speech, but I have included just the last nine minutes below to highlight the skill of appreciating your enemies.
Jordan began his address by describing how others thankfully threw wood on his internal competitive fire with the challenges they presented. One of his first examples was the high school coach that cut him from the varsity team. He said, “I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”
Jordan was clear, it was his adversaries that made him great. He reminds me of the martial artist who in her opening bow when stepping on the mat affirms, “Thank you for being my opponent. I know you have the capacity to hurt or destroy me. Teach me what I need to learn.” I appreciate that with both humor and humanness “MJ” presented that his opponents weren’t usually initially welcomed by him, but over the long haul he understood that they each were essential in his development.
Again, Jordan displays how the game might be played; this time it’s the larger game. He is setting a standard on expressing sincere gratitude and how we might confront our opposition, be it in the form of a loss, an illness, an uncomfortable situation or a difficult person. May we each see our challenges as just good kindling for our internal flames.